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11.04.2010 Asia

ASEAN insists on free election in Burma

By Nava Thakuria
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The influential leaders of Southeast Asian nations had finally asked its member country Burma to ensure a free and inclusive poll, as it proposes for a general election in the country some time later this year. The government heads under the banner of Association of South East Asian Nations, for the first time, went ahead with this kind of call to one of its member.

Attending the 16th ASEAN summit in Hanoi of Vietnam on the second week of April, the leaders expressed their desire to witness a free and fair election with the participation of all parties in Burma. The Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who chaired the ASEAN summit said in an interview, “We hope that the election in Myanmar (Burma) would be fair and democratic.”

Mentionable that Burma's main opposition party had decided to boycott the election citing the reason of flawed electoral laws. The decision of National League of Democracy was motivated by the junta's new law to bar its leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the election. The Nobel laureate lady is under detention for most of her time in Burma for her iconic image for democracy in the military ruled country.

One can say that Burma remains an annoying factor for ASEAN since the junta ruled country was incorporated as a member of the regional forum. The recently concluded summit of the forum in the Vietnamese capital, also received a fuming letter from a group of lawmakers of many ASEAN countries asking immediate strict actions including economic sanctions against the Burmese military regime.

Over 100 ASEAN Members of Parliament sent the petition urging the ASEAN leaders for tough action against the State Peace and Development Council. The Parliamentarians under the banner of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus also called on the summit 'to urgently discuss the dire need for actionable and meaningful solutions to the political and human rights problems currently plaguing Myanmar' (Burma).

The legislators from the Parliaments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Cambodia and Singapore endorsed the petition claiming that 'because of the exclusionary provisions of the election laws and the fundamental flaws in the country's Constitution, enacted in 2008, under which the elections will be held, the results of the elections cannot be acknowledged or accepted by ASEAN, both morally and politically'.

Raising voices in favour of sanctions against the Burmese junta, the Parliamentarians argued, “Despite large budget surpluses generated from regional trade, the regime has done nothing to improve the welfare of its citizens. The living standards of average citizens have fallen desperately low while members of the military regime and their associates have grown increasingly wealthy off profits from the exploitation of Myanmar's vast natural resources.”

The petition concluded saying that ASEAN could approve firm pressure on the military government of Burma which could finally compel the dictators to take steps to resolve the long-standing political and civil conflicts of the country.

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